Banning Nazi Symbols in Australia

Last month the Online Hate Prevention Institute was invited by the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Legislation Committee of the Senate to make a submission on the Criminal Code Amendment (Prohibition of Nazi Symbols) Bill 2023 (Cth). Our submission, No 22, is available from the parliament (the full list is here).

We have also been invited to appear at a committee hearing which will occur tomorrow at 10:45am. The hearing will be broadcast live through the parliament’s website. Accessed it here.

As recently as this morning we met with Meta and discussed a far-right account, likely Australian based, that has been posting antisemitism, transphobia, misogyny and other hate speech on Facebook.

Of relevance to the inquiry is this image it posted:

The image uses the logo of Combat 18, also known as the National Socialist Alliance, a UK based violent neo-Nazi group. The group was formed in 1992 and is a banned terrorist group in Canada since 2019, and in Germany since 2020. The ABC reported in 2021 the Combat 18 was active in Australia.

One of the things we will be sharing with the Senate tomorrow is the need to ban not just Nazi symbols but neo-Nazi symbols as well. The symbols are used to recruit and to build communities of radicalisation. If this account is does not belong to someone involved in Combat 18, they are at least deep enough into the far-right to be engaging with people who are.

Here are a few other posts from this account: First the promotion of Holocaust denial:

The meme is usually expressed in terms of cookie and seeks to disprove the history of the Holocaust by arguing 6 million people couldn’t fit in the crematoria (the ovens) in the time WWII lasted. The logic of this Holocaust denial is flawed. It puts up a strawman argument to knock down. The fact is that most Jews died in Holocaust in one of two ways, as the US Holocaust Memorial Museum explains. The first was mass shootings that took place in around 1,500 cities, towns, and villages. The second was in the six killing centres of Chelmno, Belzec, Sobibor, Treblinka, and Auschwitz-Birkenau. The killing centres were collectively responsible for about 2.7 million deaths. The crematoria discussed are those at Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the killing centres. According to the Auschwitz museum, their capacity was about 1.6 million people a year. Auschwitz-Birkenau was in operation for 5 years and it is estimated that in that time about 1 million Jewish people were killed there in that time.

The account also promotes Nazism itself. In the following post the author laughs at a twitter poll posted on April 18th 2023 in which people voted for Nazis over liberals. This is likely a result of online trolling and coordination to skew the results. The user who posted the poll is in fact still active. The image here is an accurate screen capture of the real poll, but with the addition of the drinking Nazi to celebrate the result.

The account also engages in transphobia and misogyny. In the post below they use an image taken from an alt-right source adding their own sick commentary.

Shortly after speaking to Meta this morning about this account and these examples they took actual at our request and closed the account. We thank them for the swift response. We also thank the person who reported to this account to us so we could take action on it.

Civil society and organisations like the Online Hate Prevention Institute play an important role in tackling online hate and extremism. We are often able to get faster results, as occurred here, than government processes. We are also able to provide the background and analysis needed to explain what it occurring, educate the public, and identify more serious content that may need to be brought to the attention of police and intelligence services.

While Meta recognised the problem and has its own policies against extremist groups and hate speech, some other platforms will only remove content when it is unlawful. Banning Nazi and neo-Nazi symbols can make it easier for us to secure the removal of such content on these platforms.

Law reform is not a complete solution, but it is a positive step which we support. We also need greater support from government for the work we do monitoring and removing hate impacting many different parts of the Australian community, as well as preventing violent extremism through our Exit project. We welcome all support from the public through tax-deductible donations (for Australian tax payers), but after 11 years of impact it is past time that government also steps up and supports this vital work.